In the first 34 games the Rebels played this season, they managed to score at least 60 points in all of them, scoring over 90 on seven occasions. That was until the played Wisconsin, one of the most impressive defensive teams in the NCAA. The 5-seed Badgers held Ole Miss to just 57 points, including 22 in the first half. Fortunately for Ole Miss, even though they were held to their lowest output of the season, they were still able to get the 47-46 victory to advance to the Round-of-32.
Ole Miss had only held an opponent to under 50 twice this season, a 91-45 win over Lipscomb and a 64-49 win over then No. 10 Missouri. Andy Kennedy went ten deep in the game, using a lot of substitutions to keep fresh legs on the court. This allowed the Rebels to apply pressure which forced 11 turnovers, including 6 steals. Wisconsin only managed to shoot 25.4 percent from the field and 23.3 percent from three-point range. No Wisconsin starter managed to score in double-digits and Sam Dekker led the way off the bench with 14 points.
Leading-scorer Ben Brust was held to just 6 points on 2-9 shooting in a very quiet 38 minutes of play. Jared Berggren had 8 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks, altering the play inside whenever he was in. Traevon Jackson also had 8 points to go along with his 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Marshall Henderson led the way with a game-high 19 points, 17 of which came in the second half. The eccentric sharpshooter started just 1-13 from the field, including 1-11 in the field half before heating up to deliver the knockout blows to Wisconsin. His antics were toned down from the start, due in large part to his beleaguered start.
Much of the offense came from senior forwards Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner. The Rebels dominated the paint and it was evident that Kennedy wanted to pound the middle from the get-go. Holloway finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists and a block. Buckner had 5 ferocious blocks and found himself around the offensive glass all game with 5 of his 12 rebounds coming on offense. The Memphis, Tenn. native finished with 9 points as well.
The win was the first for Ole Miss in an NCAA Tournament game since the 3-seed Rebels defeated 6-seed Notre Dame in the second-round of the 2001 tournament 59-56. Rod Barnes’ team lost in the next round to 2-seed Arizona who was the eventual runner-up. Ole Miss will look to match that team’s success on Sunday when they face 13-seed La Salle with a Sweet 16 trip to Los Angeles on the line. Tipoff is set for 6:40 CT from Kansas City, Mo.